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Full Day Kindergarten

by Penny on October 19, 2010 · 9 comments

I have been following the forum discussions about full day Kindergarten with interest. It seems that in the lead up to the current school year many parents had concerns and worries about the idea of a full day of school for five year olds, and others were very much in favour of the idea.

Since the start of the school year, the discourse has been pretty evenly split between those who feel their child is thriving at school, and those whose kids have had issues with separation anxiety, the length of the school day or the size of the school in general.

As a teacher, I was thrilled when I heard that BC was going to full day Kindergarten. To be honest, this is the only place (in Canada and internationally) I have lived where Kindergarten wasn’t full day.

Why is full day Kindergarten a positive step forward?

In practical terms, there are many families where both parents, and in some cases the only parent, work full time. For many parents it has been stressful and financially difficult to find part-time care that fitted around the morning/afternoon Kinder programs. Full day Kindergarten alleviates the stress and often frees up much needed money in the home.

From an educational standpoint, there are a myriad of reasons why full day Kinder is ‘a good thing’.

Children acquire more knowledge from birth to six years old than in any other time of life. As four and a half to five year olds, kids are like sponges. They have an easier time of learning new information and making connections. They are also curious and are more likely to take risks and try new things. At five, most children are not socially aware. They do not perceive themselves in relation to others – they are more likely to shout out or volunteer information – regardless of whether they are right or wrong; they have yet to learn to worry about how others view them and their abilities.

At five kids still believe in themselves – they aren’t thinking about what they ‘can’t’ do. If you tell them they can read, and treat them as readers, they believe they can read! This confidence and positive self esteem goes a long way to actually making them readers (and writers and mathematicians…)

Full day Kindergarten allows for the teaching of academic skills and play based learning. As a primary teacher, I believe balance in all things is usually best. When I first started teaching, almost all of the children coming in to Kindergarten knew the alphabet – not just how to sing it, but how to match and identify letters. When I started teaching grade one, most children entered grade one reading at a basic mechanical level with a reasonable base of phonemic awareness skills and phonics– this meant we could spend the grade one year on building fluency and comprehension so in grade two they were prepared to read to learn, instead of still learning to read. It also meant that those few children who needed intervention were easy for me to identify, and I had more time to work with them individually. Full day Kindergarten should lead to increased literacy rates, decreased rates of children at risk and more resource time (eventually) for those who need it.

Done right, the introduction of the academic skills will bleed over into play – and be part of the play based learning that is so important at this age. An afternoon of centres – from alphabet centres to art centres, science centres to blocks, dress-up to sorting centres – can provide children with a way to interact and develop social and academic skills through play. High heels at the dress-up centre can transform a Kindergartner into a princess or a mother, this might lead to a play shopping trip, which in turn could result in making a shopping list, which might be just a series of scribbles, but which tells us that this child is developing language skills and understands writing has meaning.

Full day Kindergarten also helps to even the playing field to a certain degree – not all children entering Kinder have parents at home who can spend time with them reading and exploring and puddle jumping. Some parents work two or more jobs to put food on the table, and whilst they might want to engage in stimulating activities that teach kids to engage in problem solving and make believe and all these good things – they can’t. Many kids are the children of immigrant parents – some of who can’t speak any English at all, and others who may speak English but without the fluency needed to help engender the pre-reading and literacy skills that kids used to learn in the home. Still others will themselves struggle with literacy and literally can’t read to their children. Making full day Kindergarten mandatory ensures that those children who are most at risk of falling through the cracks, even at such a young age, not only have a place to be, but a requirement to be there.

Socially, full day Kinder gives children the opportunity of figuring out what ‘works’, what’s acceptable and how to start to relate to other kids, even if you can’t stand half of them  – or they can’t stand you! Lots of children don’t go to pre-school, they don’t have siblings to interact with, they may not live in neighbourhoods where there are a plethora of other kids – for many Kindergarten is the first place where they have to start to learn social responsibility to someone other than mum and dad!

Finally, full day Kinder prepares kids for grade one – which is always a full day. It eases them in to the routines, the slightly earlier morning, the need to get through breakfast and dressing in a timely fashion because they have some where to be, the slightly earlier bedtime, needed in grade one. Full day Kinder helps prepare kids to become ‘students’ so when they start grade one, the fun work of school can begin.

As a Kindergarten teacher, I always felt successful if kids left my classroom at the end of the year having learned these three things.

  1. To love school and be excited everyday to be there.
  2. To have begun to read – whether by sight or by phonics, one word or twenty.
  3. To believe that they were readers.

 

 

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Sox October 19, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Thanks for posting this — my son is starting kindergarten next year and the full day hasn’t been on my radar as an issue because he’s currently in daycare four days a week. His school day will actually be shorter than his daycare day, so I don’t think he’ll have a problem. However, it’s nice to know there are some educational benefits.

And now I want *you* to teach my son kindergarten. You sound like a wonderful teacher. 🙂

Oncearunner October 20, 2010 at 11:33 am

Having taught Kindergarten classes in Ontario and Alberta, I found it unusual when I moved to BC that full day Kinder wasn’t offered. Keeping ‘play’ as an integral part of the day is so important to a child’s confidence, attitude towards school, and overall learning. Excellent article!

kteacher October 20, 2010 at 4:20 pm

I’m training to be a teacher and kindergarten is where I want to be. Is there anyway I can contact you to discuss being a kindergarten teacher?

Penny October 22, 2010 at 2:18 pm

I appreciate the positive comments. Kindergarten and grade one are magical years! Make sure you enjoy every minute. I can be reached at 477-3212 – just ask for Penny

Janet November 9, 2010 at 2:44 am

Hello.
My daughter started kindergarten this fall, the day is shorter (8:44 to 2:48 and then I pick her up at 4pm from after school care) than her previous daycare was (8 to 5pm). I was so happy that we went to the full day because I didn’t want her in more ‘care’ since she really needed a new challenge – unfortunetly kindergarten is academically a lot less that group preschool was and my daughter is totally bored out of her mind. BC needs a revised ciriculum to deal with the fact most of the kids come from a full day care program.

Penny November 9, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Hi Janet,

I hear you! It is one of the rationales for full day Kindergarten – children entering K come from such diverse early childhood experiences that some are reading, others are ready-to-read and some do not have the basic readiness skills for school. Imagine what this means for grade one where truly formal education begins. Having full day Kindergarten available gives all kids a chance to start grade one on more or less the same playing field. However, for kids who have come to Kindergarten from a readiness rich environment, or who are just more ‘ready’ in general, a play based Kindergarten may not challenge them.

If this is the case for your daughter, I would speak to the Kindergarten teacher and see if there is anything that can be done to enrich her experience at school. Some suggestions that spring to mind:

If she knows the uppercase letters, could she start working on learning to print the lower case letters?

If she already knows her letters and can print them, could she have some work to start learning and matching the sounds to the letters?

Could she have some basic sight words to work with in class – she could use them to build sentences or to help her write in a journal.

Could she start a ‘word wall’ big book to share with the rest of the class of high frequency words that she can read and write.

If there is a computer in the classroom, could she have some extra time working on one of the available reading programs to help work on the phonics and decoding?

If she is already reading, could she leave the Kindergarten class and join the grade one class for a portion of their reading instruction?

Could she become a ‘buddy’ to someone else in class who she could help out with their work?

Could she elect to spend more time at the centres she’d like to work at – perhaps working on counting or doing basic addition problems?

If the Kinder teacher is unable, or unwilling to try and find some more stimulating or enriching activities for her, then consider what can be done at home – there are lots of great websites for kids that truly do have educational value, perhaps afterschool activities that will develop a skill – such as piano playing – but will also help develop math skills, maybe an art program, or something like Brownies where you can work more to your own potential.
Here are some of the kids sites that I like:
http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en
http://www.thebbcgames.com/
http://www.bookadventure.com/

Penny

Laurie November 15, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Hi Penny,

Thanks for the interesting article. I am a stay-at-home Mom and I am concerned with the length of the day for my son. Do you have any ideas or comments about parents sending their children for a half-day, despite it being a full-day curriculum? I know my son will enjoy kindergarten, as he enjoys preschool quite a lot. I don’t need the ‘care’ aspect of full-day kindergarten and am considering the half-day option.

Penny November 15, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Hi Laurie,

I understand the concern over the length of the day. I would encourage you to try the full day if you can. Grade one is a big leap from Kindergarten in terms of the academics and the concepts taught. Expectations ramp up, and home reading is usually assigned to take place after school. Children who are used to a full day of school have one less obstacle to deal with in terms of being able to stay engaged, not tiring etc.
Attending a full day program for half a day also means that your son will have to ‘separate’ from the class half way through the day and may miss out on some of the academics, some of the fun, and importantly the socialization that goes on as kids begin to find their feet and learn what is and isn’t appropriate for school, how to listen, how to share etc. I would give the full day option a ‘go’. Give it a month, and if after the first month your son is not doing well with the full day, is fractious, over tired etc. then you can scale it back.
Whilst full day kinder alleviates day care problems for many parents it is not the primary purpose – setting kids up with strong readiness skills and thus a better chance at success is really the goal. However, as in all things, as the parent it is your decision to make and you need to do what you think is best for your child.
Penny

Laurie November 16, 2010 at 9:30 am

Thanks Penny. I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions. Your reply does resonate with me and with my concerns about only doing a half day when all the others are full day. I will shift my thinking about full day and make the transition as easy as I can for my son. Thanks!

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